Place Names of Atlantic Canada.
William B. Hamilton.
Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
It is inevitable that the process of compiling any work of this kind must be brutally selective. To put the matter in context, it is worth recording that, at the time of writing, there were 62,880 officially approved Atlantic Canadian place names on the computer list maintained by the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (CPCGN). The vast majority of these names are descriptive in nature and many are repetitious. To illustrate: in Newfoundland and Labrador there are more than 200 distinct features that incorporate 'Green,' including 20 with the name Green Cove. Nova Scotia is not far behind. It boasts some 130 variants of 'Green,' numbered among them 25 locations known as 'Green Island.'Dr. William B. Hamilton is well qualified to have written Place Names of Atlantic Canada. As a former chair of the Toponymic Research Committee of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, he has previously written Local History in Atlantic Canada, and The Macmillan Book of Canadian Place Names. And what is toponymic research? I confess that I had to look it up, and found that toponymics is the study of place names.
This is a book that will appeal to a great variety of readers. It is scholarly and thoroughly researched for the enjoyment and satisfaction of historians, be they professional or amateur. It is a fascinating book for browsers and dilettanti who would like to confound friends with amusing stories of the reasons for names like Pinchgut Point, Magaguadavic River, Marshy Hope and Barachois Run. Students will find it an excellent reference when they research their own communities or the birthplaces of ancestors. Indeed it is a book that should certainly be in every library in Atlantic Canada as well as widely available throughout the rest of Canada.
In a book of this type, prefaces and chapters explaining how the author gathered material, why some names were omitted, how problems connected with variations in spelling were settled, and from whence place names originated, are often overlooked by readers who dash directly to the listings. This would be an unfortunate omission for the reader of this book as Hamilton's preface and first chapter, "Windows on History and Culture," provide fascinating insights into his subject. Place names were chosen with three categories in mind: size, history, and human interest - Saint John as a fairly large city, Port Royal as an important historical site, and Naked Man Hill for the story connected with that nomenclature.
As sources of information, Hamilton had a wealth of material from which to choose, both ancient and modern. Some names originated from the native Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Beothuk people, as well as from the Inuit people. Ancient charts and maps by early explorers of several nationalities - Vikings, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, Scots, Germans - reveal their choices of place names. Sites were named and renamed as populations changed from French to English, and sometimes back again. Many migrations also brought new names and changed older well-established names of settlements, such as the English who arrived after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to take over French possessions, German and French Foreign Protestants who settled Lunenburg, Planters and Loyalists from New England who came after the Expulsion of the Acadians, fishermen from many different nations and cultures, settlers from the Caribbean, and African Americans from the Thirteen Colonies.
Place names in the book are listed alphabetically by province, with helpful maps of each province near the beginning of the listings. The last pages of the volume are designated a "Bibliographical Essay," a more graceful way to acknowledge sources than a mere list, although just as extensive. Altogether this is a fine contribution to both the history and geography of the Atlantic Provinces.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
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